Saturday, June 25, 2011

Storm Clouds

The past couple of days have been full of ups and downs. I feel incredibly busy, but at the same time seem to be accomplishing absolutely nothing. For the first time in years my two worlds, the world of Peace Corps Senegal and the world of my old life at home, are colliding. I’m so close to being done, but home is still out of reach and while I’ve been planning a life at home it’s still vague and currently includes another plane ticket to the west coast 11 days after getting to Michigan and that’s pretty much it. The new trainees are here, I’m writing my Close of Service Report which will help my replacement jump into life and projects in Thies (I just finished it this morning!), and I’m placing last minute jewelry orders for my friends and myself (hey, I’m trying to keep what’s important in perspective!). At the same time my calendar is filling up with all kinds of events in Grand Rapids and Chicago. Having a foot in each world is a little weird, but probably good practice for how I’m actually feel when I get home. For now, I’m trying to prepare, but enjoy my time in Senegal with all of my friends. We still have one more trip planned and 4th of July festivities to look forward to!

The process of writing my COS report has been a strange one . Writing the details of my service, how I organized the artisan expo, what the creation of the artisan association looked like, the shipment of Dioss’ cards to the States, the new styles of Mme. Ly’s jewelry, is an exciting look back at my service and has reminded me that I actually did accomplish things. Writing about my family already has me in a panic about saying goodbye. Describing everyone’s personalities, their quirks, relationships to each other, and how the insanity of my household all seems to make sense is really emotional. These people no matter how much they annoy me, how incredibly inconsiderate they are sometimes, or how they truly feel about me as a “member” of their family are my family here in Senegal. I depend on them and I love them and it’s going to be terrible to say goodbye even if I will enjoy not being barged in upon while half naked and given a baby to hold. I hope my replacement finds the same camaraderie with my family as I did.

My COS is only one of the written documents I’m working on. Job applications, letters of recommendations, different essays, and PST schedules are constantly open on my computer and just never seem to be complete. I’m easily distracted these days.

Yesterday, I did get some work done. In the morning I attempted to explain my internet problem to the service provider. It ended with me having a meltdown in the Orange office much to the amusement of two Peace Corps employees who were also there to complain and attempt to have their problems resolved. From there I headed over to Mme. Ly’s to check in, chat, and discuss a special order for Jackie. Upon hearing that there may or may not be coveted hot pink beads in Dakar, I also placed an order. We discussed the Artisan Association and how it really has nothing to do with Katherine and I and that the next meeting in September will be just as successful and the artisans can do more and more themselves. Mme. Ly doesn’t seem convinced, but I’m confident she’ll pick up the reigns when she has to.

In the afternoon I met up with Andrew, one of the new trainees who is doing PST in Thies. He was feeling a little antsy in his home stay which I could understand after talking to his mom on the phone and explaining that he was a big boy and could walk to a central location by himself to meet me! We walked through the market running some errands I had. During my PST I felt like all of the PCVs who came in were so enthusiastic and happy about everything and in love with Senegal. Many people in my stage find it funny that I’m in essence “stage mom” since I hated PST with such a passion, but I hope that I’m giving people a realistic picture of Peace Corps life. I would have felt so much better if someone had told me that Peace Corps is hard, that people can and will be really mean in cities, and that Senegalese cities are just dirty and disgusting. This isn’t a value statement it’s just the truth. I think Andrew has a lot of the same misgivings that I did when I first arrived so I hope that I’m helping trainees who feel like I did and at the same time not appearing to be too much of a Debbie Downer to the super happy go lucky people. It was nice to get out of the house and hang out with someone and it was another opportunity to reflect on my service.

So, I have been doing things. I’ve visited work partners, yelled at service providers, toured Thies with new trainees, and even written reports, but it doesn’t really feel productive. I need to kick it into high gear. It’s a sprint to the finish.

As I’m in transition, so is the weather. The rainy season has arrived. Katherine called me this morning because she knew I had plans to go into town and a storm was hitting Bambey. It takes almost exactly half an hour for weather to get from Bambey to Thies, which would have had me walking around in the storm. Thanks Katherine for the heads up! Even without Katherine’s heads up I hope I would not have been stupid enough to leave my house after looking at the sky. It was pitch dark at 9am and then the sky turned red with sand and the wind was incredibly violent, banging everything closed and tearing limbs off our Mango trees. It was pretty cool. The storm lasted for over two hours and it rained a lot! Now we actually have some water since we collected it in buckets. The rain was a welcome relief from the humidity that’s settled over Thies in the past week or so. I’m not too pumped for Thies to become a swamp of trash again, but I do enjoy seeing the change in life when the rains come. No one does anything, there’s no cars on the roads, everyone hides from the rain and I watch movies in my room!

SHOUT OUTS!!! I’ve been delinquent in putting these up! I apologize.

McKeowns – Thank you so much for the “Countdown to Redondo” package! The trail mix and magazines should provide me enough fuel to get through the next few weeks. I’m excited to teach Ahmed all about paper airplanes as well. Thank you for your support.

Mom and Dad – Thanks for another great package. The wine cups will be much appreciated during our beach weekend next week! And I promise to wear the new underwear on the plane so Africa underwear doesn’t make the jump across the Atlantic!

Shirley – Thanks for another great card! Matt and I are definitely going to call in that order of Pecan Bars and I can’t wait for some fried rice salad and mashed potatoes!

Sorry this has been a rambling and disjointed post! I’ll try and do better tomorrow.


  1. Hi, I have been visiting your blog. ¡Congratulations for your work! I invite you to visit my blog about literature, philosophy and films:

    Greetings from Santa Marta, Colombia

  2. Alyssa,

    You are coming full circle on many different fronts, I especially like the den mother thought. See you soon.


  3. I think we all agree...when feeling overwhelmed put on new underwear!